My new bike has these thin tires with a type of valve I haven't usedbefore. I searched online and found out it's called a Presta valve, and it's pretty common and popular. I'm finding it annoying and fiddly and don't know how to use it properly. I have a floor pump, and I know the valves and pump are fine, because the guy in the shop had no trouble using the same one. But after reading online and watching YouTube videos I still can't figure out how to do it properly!

Here's what I'm trying:

  • Rotate wheel so that the pump can comfortably reach the valve (guides online say the valve should be at 12 o'clock position, but I can't do that because the hose on the pump isn't long enough)
  • Remove valve cap, unscrew thingy in valve, and tap it a little - a jet of air shoots out. OK.
  • Push pump onto valve. This is where I get into trouble...

I can't seem to get the attachment onto the valve in the right way. I'm pushing it on with the elbow lever thingy down, and then pulling the lever up as you can see in the pictures, to make the attachment grip onto the valve.

Now, either it flops around loose and leaks air out the sides (when I push it on gently), or sometimes it goes on but then the tire doesn't seem to inflate any, the pump just gets stiff really quickly as if the valve was blocked - then I remove the attachment and it goes pffffft like all the pressure was just backed up in the hose and not actually going into the tire.

I was able to pump up the tire eventually, but it took me about an hour of stuffing around and my "project manager" got angry, because I was supposed to be in the kitchen making her a salad, not mucking around in the garage.

The time I got it on properly I had to deflate the tire completely, and even then it was difficult because with the tire completely deflated the stem of the valve just pushed into the rim. Surely this is not normal? What's the trick of attaching the darned thing?

Also, how can I just check the pressure? When I attach the thing I expect the guage to jump up and show me what pressure it's at, but it just stays at 0. The tires say on the side to inflate to 110 psi (7.5 atm), but my pump only goes up to 100.

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  • 4
    I always put the valve at 6 o'clock (closest to the floor) when filling. That way when you push the pump head onto the valve, the bike doesn't go anywhere. With my pump, I have to get the valve quite deep into the head and it's difficult to do this in any position other than having the valve at the floor.
    – Kibbee
    Dec 3, 2012 at 17:58
  • 2
    Looking at the picture, it seems you may not have enough of the stem protruding to actually connect it properly to the pump head. I have similar rims on one of my bikes, and I ended up getting a valve adapter as @Zippy mentioned below instead of buying longer stems, as they cost more than the shorter stems, and the adapters are quite cheap anyway (75 cents at my local bike store).
    – Kibbee
    Dec 4, 2012 at 1:35
  • @kibbee - I like the stem high, so I don't need to bend over as far. But I don't have aero rims. Dec 4, 2012 at 2:33
  • Presta valves are typically used in cases where a higher tire pressure is required - the pump you are using may not be able to handle pumping a tire up to 110 PSI. (or the guage may simply not show the pressure, in which case you may need to be careful of a blowout.)
    – tofarr
    Dec 5, 2012 at 11:37
  • Presta valves are an invention of the devil. I have bee using them for years and still have trouble. They are fragile and must be used just so.
    – user12976
    Jul 14, 2014 at 22:01

9 Answers 9


Those valve stems are too short for those deep deep rims you've got on there. You can tell just from the photos that the valve stem isn't sticking out far enough from the rim for the pump to fit all the way on it. Hence, it's not contacting the valve enough for you to inflate your tires.

  • 4
    You're absolutely right. There should also be a jam nut to keep that stem from wiggling around when you try to get the pump head seated.
    – WTHarper
    Dec 4, 2012 at 2:10
  • Yep, I think you've got it. Who supplied those wheels with too-short stems?? (I've had the problem that it's hard to find shorter stems for my regular box rims anymore -- surprised that this situation would ever occur.) Dec 4, 2012 at 2:32
  • 4
    I've done this before by accident - you need to get tube with a 60 mm valve instead of a 42 mm value
    – tofarr
    Dec 5, 2012 at 11:33
  • 3
    It's possible the bike shop got it to inflate by pressing into the flat tyre with finger before inflating to support the valve stem (doing the job of the nut) whilst shoving on the pump. Pumps differ in the clearance/depth of stem they need pushed inside to get a working connection, so yours might be unfavourable to this combination. Removing the nut lets you get another 3mm of stem inside the connector which can be enough to get it inflated. I've seen shops chuck the nut (like this) when they've supplied the wrong part! Ultimately, chuck the inner tubes for 60mm versions.
    – shuckc
    Aug 18, 2015 at 10:07

For shorter stem presta valves in deep rims the trick to fill air is to first deflate the tyre about 50%, then push the pump head onto the stem with one hand while at the same time pushing the stem through the rim from the tyre side with your other hand. Then use the lever to get a good seal.

When you pump it up, the increase in pressure in the head of the pump will depress the presta valve on its own. As Daniel Hicks said in a comment in this thread:

There is no need to depress the stem in a Presta valve, since air pressure will open the valve when the pump develops more pressure than is inside the tire. All that's necessary is to briefly tap the stem before putting on the chuck, to make sure that the rubber gasket is not stuck closed.

  • Welcome to Bicycles.SE. Formatting and grammar can make a big difference in how easy it is to understand your answer. I have attempted to edit your answer and keep your meaning. If I have missed the mark you can edit it again. For an intro to how this and other Stack Exchange Q & A sites work, please Take the Tour.
    – Gary.Ray
    Aug 18, 2015 at 13:10

"Remove valve cap, unscrew thingy in valve, and tap it a little - a jet of air shoots out. OK."

You've got that right. If you have the proper pump, and the chuck is working properly, then simply pushing the chuck on and flipping the lever should do it.

Normally, when you press the chuck on far enough a little button in the middle of the chuck will press the "thingy" down to let air out and let you read the pressure.

It may be that your chuck is poorly designed (or not really "stem agnostic") and you'd do better with a screw-on adapter. (And some chuck designs require changing out the innards to do Presta valves.)

(It really isn't that difficult and fussy with the right pump and the right technique.)


Inside the Presta pump head there will be a peg behind a rubber washer, which depresses the valve on the stem which is engaged when you move the lever into the elevated position. At the same time, typically a set of jaws will clamp onto the body of the stem holding it in place. It sounds very much as if your pump isn't able to activate the valve sufficiently to break the seal, and therefore when you pump, the air is backing up against the rubber washer rather than inflating the tyre.

As mentioned above, this could be an artifact of the exposed stem not being long enough and you should look to: use either a chuck which doesn't require as much stem to be exposed; to replace the inner tube with one with a longer valve; or use a valve extender (that leaves the existing core intact), or if the tube has a replaceable core to screw in a valve extender (like those available from Continental).

Sometimes, I find it useful when pumps aren't functioning as I'd expect them to, is to use an inner tube with a known working valve without it being installed in a tyre. This will remove the potential for insufficient stem being exposed to be a limiting factor and permit the pump to be exercised to ensure it is functioning correctly.

  • 1
    There is no need to depress the stem in a Presta valve, since air pressure will open the valve when the pump develops more pressure than is inside the tire. All that's necessary is to briefly tap the stem before putting on the chuck, to make sure that the rubber gasket is not stuck closed. Jul 22, 2014 at 0:28

The pump appears to have a valve which is supposed to switch automatically between Presta and Schrader as needed. In my experience, these valve don't always work. I have a similar pump where the valve has become stuck, and I can only use it for inflating Schrader valves now.

If this is at the root of your problem as well, among many alternatives, you can 1) buy a new pump, or 2) get a Presta-->Schrader adapter.

My guess would be that if you operate the pump off the bicycle tire, air should come out the Schrader valve side. This will show you in which mode the valve is operating.

  • I've got a pump that switches quite well, but it's a good quality "Joe Blow" unit. The OP's pump appears to have a chuck with two holes in it, one for Presta and one for Schraeder, so it doesn't really need to switch. Dec 4, 2012 at 2:36
  • Yes it has two holes like that
    – wim
    Dec 4, 2012 at 12:11

You need a special Presta valve suited to the tire pump or an adapter to convert your bike tire's valve temporarily to a Schrader tire valve, so you can use a standard tire pump. After filling, you remove the adapter till the next time.

  • Welcome to Bicycles SE. This answer would be more complete with links and/or pictures to the type of pump and adapter that you're talking about. Please consider adding them.
    – jimchristie
    Aug 6, 2013 at 12:22
  • A presta->schrader adapter was already mentioned in Zippy's answer, and the original user already has a pump compatible with presta valves.
    – Tim B
    Aug 7, 2013 at 17:19

One trick I have used in a pinch when my stem was too short for the rim depth (as your picture is showing) is to place my thumb against the tire at the point of the stem and carefully press in until the stem is being held out of the rim. This can give the leverage needed to attach the pump head to the short stem length. While the stem extender solution is a good one, your rims are not the super deep rims that require such a long stem that are not readily available. Go for a nice long stemmed tube and your particular issue should be solved. Also, I had trouble with unthreaded presta stems causing the pump head to slip off before the tire was fully inflated. I purchased a new pump head, and now it is difficult to remove the pump head on threaded stems, but the pump stays attached to the stem all the way to 120+ pounds on the unthreaded stems.

  • The purpose of the threaded stem and nut is to hold the stem out so you don't have to do the thumb thing. Jul 22, 2014 at 0:26

Had the same problem—the trick is that the threaded sleeve at the very tip of the valve needs to be unthreaded and floating free in order for the valve to work under the pressure of incoming pumped air. So the order of operation is:

  1. valve cap off
  2. ensure the valve stem collar nut is seated snug against the surface of the wheel
  3. spin the tiny threaded sleeve counterclockwise to open the flow of air to the body of valve itself (the missing step that stumped me)
  4. attach the pump head to the Presta valve (and, if you have a Joe Blow adaptor pump like I do), close off the yellow adaptor selector valve arm in the opposite direction of the open (dark grey) Presta valve adaptor
  5. inflate to appropriate pressure
  6. unsnap the yellow selector valve arm — there will be a quick release of air pressure in the pump proper...and none from the Presta valve (yahoo!)
  7. spin the tiny threaded sleeve clockwise to close the valve and preserve existing inner tube/tire pressure
  8. replace the Presta valve cap...and hit the road!
  • 1
    The OP said "Remove valve cap, unscrew thingy in valve, and tap it a little - a jet of air shoots out. OK." Jun 11, 2016 at 20:47

I can't address the issue of the length of your valve stem, but I was lucky enough to have my bike shop include a pair of presta to schraeder adapters when I bought the bike. The bicycle shop showed me how to use the adapters and told me to leave them on the valve stems so that I would always have the adapters with me if I needed them. This has saved me several times when I didn't want to use a CO2 cylinder and was able to use the air machine at a gas station instead.

  • 2
    You're absolutely right, but this information is already in user7696's answer from Aug 6 2013, so 4.5 years ago, and ZippyThePinhead's answer on Dec 3 2012, and Kibbee's comment. Saying it again adds nothing new. It might be worth mentioning presta-specific valve extensions as an option. Do please have a read of our tour because SE is a bit different to a common web chatty forum. And welcome to the site.
    – Criggie
    Mar 11, 2018 at 9:23

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